What is Tofu?

In Japan, tofu has been a staple source of protein for many years, but in the west it is a relatively new phenomenon.

History in Japan

Tofu was brought to Japan during the Nara Period (710–794) by Chinese Buddhist monks. For many years, it was a key ingredient in shojin ryori (traditional Buddhist meals), until it became more widespread in the Edo Period (1603-1867). In the 1960s, after looking into its health benefits, the Japanese Food Research Institute helped to modernize and promote tofu across Japan.

What is tofu made of?

Tofu is made from soybean curd. The curdling soy milk is drained with the liquid pressed out. Essentially, it can be described as firm, condensed soy milk.

Types of Tofu

There are many different types, which vary depending on if it has been pressed or not. Silken tofu is not pressed, instead it is coagulated directly into the packet. In Japan there are two main types.

Silken (Kinugoshi)

Also known as soft tofu, it is great for blending into cakes, smoothies and sauces. It can also be used in salads, or things which don’t require a lot of stirring, due to its soft, breakable texture.

An advantage of silken tofu is its susceptibility to marinades.

Firm (Momen)

The other common variety is firm tofu, which works well for adding to miso soup, stir frying, baking, grilling and more.

Its firm texture means you can bash it about a bit without it crumbling to pieces.

Health Benefits

Tofu is often touted as a meat substitute because of its ample protein content, but it has a whole host of other health benefits too.


Tofu is a great source of isoflavones, is cholesterol free and very low in fat, particularly saturated fat. It contains a whole host of antioxidants and naturally contains what is considered a high number of vitamins and minerals.


There has been debate about the effects of soy on estrogen. Yet it has been proved by studies such as this one from Harvard University that, in fact, soy can have a positive effect, and eating tofu every day is fine.

Nutritional Value

The hard facts. See below for a table of tofu’s nutritional value according to the Japan Tofu Association. The information below is for 150g of tofu.

Tofu Nutrients Cotton (Momen) Silken (Kinugoshi)
Protein 9.9g 7.4g
Vitamin B1 0.10mg 0.15mg
Vitamin B2 0.05mg 0.06mg
Vitamin E 0.9mg 0.5mg
Vitamin K 19.5μg 18.0μg
Calcium 180mg 65mg
Magnesium 47mg 66mg
Iron 1.4mg 1.2mg
Zinc 0.9mg 0.8mg
Potassium 210mg 225mg
Soluble dietary fiber 0.15g 0.15g
Insoluble dietary fiber 0.45g 0.30g

Tofu Products

People in Asia have been consuming tofu for over 1,000 years, so there has been a lot of time to develop new types to use. Below are two of our favorites.

Tofu Misozuke (Miso-Fermented Tofu)

Tofu covered in miso paste and left to ferment is known as misozuke. It has a strange smell and is also known as “Japan’s cheese.”

Tofu Skin (Yuba)

One tofu product which has received a lot of attention lately is tofu skin, or yuba. By itself, it can be used for sashimi with wasabi, or even mixed with egg and covered on rice.

Tofu Recipes

There are a multitude of tofu recipes out there.


Firm tofu is used a lot in Japan, to put into miso soup. Double soybean energy.


In Okinawa, there is a famous dish called goya champuru, featuring bitter gourd, tofu and egg.

Tofu Scramble

For anyone hoping to make a healthy egg type scramble, tofu scramble is definitely worth checking out. Simply mix crumbled tofu with your choice of seasoning, heat and serve. Easy-peasy.

Ingenious Tofu Brands

The recent tofu boom has led to a number of new, innovative tofu brands.

Beyond Tofu

Beyond Tofu is made by a 60 year-old Japanese tofu brand. The process of Beyond Tofu includes fermentation — just like actual cheese — which makes it pretty close to cheese itself.


An American brand, Tofurkey is well-known for its meat substitutes, which use many additives to make tofu taste and feel a little like actual meat, such as sliced ham and turkey.


Tofutti takes tofu to a new level. With its famous range of sour cream, cheeses and ice creams, Tofutti is perhaps partially responsible for the renewed interest in all things tofu.

Japan even has its own dedicated tofu shops.

Where to Buy Tofu?

Tofu can be found in almost any supermarket. In Japan, it is even available in convenience stores. With the boom in soy meat thanks to the onset of the 2020 Olympics, tofu-made products have become even more popular.

For those outside Asia, tofu can be found in most supermarkets. For anyone looking for variety, it is recommended to check out your nearest Asian grocery store.

Is Tofu Vegan?

Short answer, yes. That is partly why we have seen a rise in the popularity of tofu and tofu-made products, alongside the rise in veganism.

Is it a Good Meat Substitute?

Tofu will probably never taste exactly like meat or be able to fool any meat-eaters in a blind taste test. But it can be used in place of meat or animal products as a viable option for a whole host of recipes, in its own delicious way.